Before we get things started, I'd like wish everyone a Happy Halloween. This is a time where being scared is the ultimate purpose. What better way to prepare yourselves for the scariest night of the year than with horror cinema? Nothing beats classic horror-flicks like John Carpenter's "Halloween", "The Exorcist" or the 1970s cult-classic "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", but from time to time there will be a month of October when a couple refreshingly decent flicks in the horror genre will appear. October of 2012 is surprisingly one of those months.
No instant-classics or super scary pictures came out of this month, but we are treated with some decent horror stories worth praising, at least for a little while. In this month, three horror flicks have been released; Sinister, Paranormal Activity 4, and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. Which of these three was the top-dog of the month? Which one delivered the cleverest story-line, the most scares, and had the best tone? It's a battle of which clichéd horror flick clichéd the best and I mean this in the best way possible.
Based from the trailer alone, SINISTER looked horrifying and original, something the horror-genre hadn't seen in years. With a name like Ethan Hawke under its belt, the script was sure enough to have some quality if a talented actor was willing to take time to perform in "just another horror flick". It's pretty sad when this thought runs through your mind when seeing the trailer for a new scary film. Horror flicks have become an on-going gag filled with cliché after cliché. SINISTER has plenty of typical clichés, believe me, but in a sense, the movie makes them work.
SINISTER tells the story of Mr. Oswalt, an author who writes about unresolved crimes that the police put to rest after a certain amount of time. Ten years since his last book, which became an instant-hit on the New York Times Best-Seller list, Oswalt has written a couple misfires that have put his name in the dirt, and his families. When he hatches a plan to move his family into the home of a recent crime-scene without them knowing, he uses the story of a hanged family in his own backyard as a hopeful chance in getting his name back on the best-seller list once again. The reason I like the character Oswalt so much is because he is an incredibly flawed man. Before it was about solving the crime and finding absolute justice, but once he lost all the fame he realized he couldn't live without it and before he knows it, he becomes an obsessed, egotistical baboon looking to do anything for the rich and fame once again, and that's exactly what leads to the horrifying events he faces in the film.
Ethan Hawke plays this character wonderfully. You can see the pain in his eyes, the obsession of solving the cases in his voice and body gesture. The best thing about SINISTER is Hawke's portrayal of an extremely well-developed character. Scott Derrickson did a wonderful job writing and putting this horror surprise together. The dark tone and mood really bring out the chills; let's not forget the cleverness behind the "filmed murders" either. Throughout the film we find the main character watching filmed murders that a serial killer taped and these are the real treasure SINISTER offers. They are super-thrilling and one-hundred percent nerve-wracking. They almost feel real in a sense and that's the true horror that comes from SINISTER.
Of course, while SINISTER works perfectly in its first half, everything is almost destroyed by the time the film ends. The film ruins what could have been a perfect, even classic horror-story with stupid twists and turns that of course, like every horror-flick nowadays, involves demons. Thinking in the first half that a man was capable of such murders was such a horrifying thought. But when it comes down to the grain the film's unbelievable ending train-wrecks the entire thing. It's really the first hour or so of SINISTER that really delivers true scares and original horror film-making. Even with its stupid ending, SINISTER is well worth a watch and not to be missed on any excuse.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4:
This is something that should have ended with the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. The sequels, even if they can be a guilty pleasure, get more and more pointless in context of the story as each one releases. PARANORMAL ACITVITY 4 is the only true sequel so far in the franchise, where PA2 and PA3 were practically prequels and answered absolutely no questions raised from the previous installment. Even though PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 takes place after the events of the first three films, it still gives more questions than answers, which is extremely annoying. It'd be one thing if the plot was complex and thrilling, but PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is all about a demon, it's just a matter of piecing together all of the ridiculous endings and figuring out "what goes where".
With PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5 and a Spanish spin-off on the horizon, expect more questions about this franchise to pop into your head. I'm sure you'll never figure out what happened at the end of third film, and based on the newest one's ending, you'll probably never get a TRUE answer to what happened here either. Even though PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 gives you SOME detail on what happened after the second film, it isn't truly enough. All it does it give you an excuse to come back for more, when really, you're just going to get the same thing.
Although the story-telling is something to complain about, these movies are something I can complement based on its style. What I like is getting a new perspective in each film. The first film was seen through a large camera, the second through set-up security cameras around a house, the third film set in the 80s with less-developed technology, and now the fourth film, which is seen through computer webcams. At first I was sketchy with the whole webcam thing, but it actually works better than any way we've seen in this franchise so far. Don't be surprised if the next film is seen through someone's I-Phone though...it's only bound to happen, right?
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is the least thrilling in the franchise so far, yet it's the most entertaining. Well, how is that so? The characters in this movie are genuinely funny, and even though they kept me entertained, I didn't really understand the motive behind this. I was laughing a lot throughout this movie as if it were a comedy, and the funny thing is, I wasn't laughing at the quality of the film....I was laughing because some of the dialogue is ACTUALLY funny. It took away the purpose of this being a horror-film. While I can praise it for making me laugh and have a good time, on a horror perspective you can't really give that a thumbs-up because it made you forget you were there to be scared.
Prepare yourselves for at least another three movies. With the money this franchise is milking, I'm sure your questions won't be answered till Paranormal Activity Infinity. I may have enjoyed the progression this franchise has taken, personally I think they get better and better, I'm ready for it to end and answer some unresolved details. One can dream right?
SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D:
Personally I liked the first SILENT HILL. I've been waiting on a sequel for quite some time now and as a fan of the video-games, I've always considered the first film as a very well-made video-game adaptation...probably one of the best. SILENT HILL: REVELATION is a long time coming and I'm extremely happy it's finally arrived. Granted, it is far from a perfect film but I enjoyed it about as much as I expected. As long as you don't expect something great you'll get something even greater, entertainment.
The movie starts out pretty bumpy. Once you get past everything going on in the real-world the film quickly fades from all that garbage and finally brings on what you came in for, the darkness. Once you enter Silent Hill in the film, your attention will be restored and you'll most likely be entertained for the rest of the film's elapse. The scene where the main female protagonist of the film wakes up, loads her gun, and enters through a foggy Silent Hill reminded me of the epic beginning moments of any of the video-games; a very well-done scene and totally awesome, especially if you are a fan of the games. As long as the movie is showing off some freaky visual-effects and keeping the action and thrills going, it's a great ride. Some of the dialogue is painful to sit through but luckily you really only have to deal with that in the first twenty minutes or so. (Only on one occasion did this film suffer from a cheesy moment like this: "Time to die..." "NOT TODAY!" *slow motion gunshot*. ) The film also fails at trying to give the sense of a romance between two characters. Pepsi and Coca-Cola have better chemistry than Kit Harington and Adelaide Clemens did with each other in this movie. Clemens gave a good performance but with terrible romantic dialogue that doesn't belong in a film like this paired with a pretty terrible male actor just doesn't work. Luckily she had some kickass scenes that really made up for it.
Visually, SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D is a real treat. The film captures that unique style of the video-games and places it on the big-screen as best as they can. The look of all the different creatures and the dark setting of the town of Silent Hill just looked stunning and absolutely incredible in 3D. At first, the 3D was very blurry and pretty distracting but once things set in motion and the horror begins it went together well and looked great.
The movie has a pretty decent storyline that is easy to follow and isn't boring. The entire time I found myself involved in what was going on and even tried figuring how it was going to piece together. Although I would have asked for maybe 15 minutes or so more before the conclusion of the film (things did start to feel a little rushed) I'm glad this didn't turn into a complete disaster. It had more flaws than I can count on one hand but luckily the visual effects and the entertaining storyline made up for them. SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D is merely just an entertaining film, not a scary. Horror-wise this movie won't make you jump once or even worry about something popping out of nowhere. This is more just, "look how gruesome this looks" kind of horror-flick, which is fine because it worked out well enough for me.
I wouldn't mind visiting SILENT HILL on the big-screen once again. Hopefully this movie can make enough money and a sequel can come faster than this one did. For a third film a lot of things can be worked on and polished (like character development) but even just seeing the wonderful visuals and perfectly-captured setting of Silent Hill once again would be a good experience. This one is worth seeing for fans of the first film. I can guarantee it won't disappoint.
So which of these three is the best horror film of the month? :
Even though I enjoyed all three to a certain extent, and even had some problems with each as well, it's pretty clear that on a horror-level SINISTER wins the grand-prize. Although it suffers from a typical horror-cliché where all horror filmmakers seem to think "big twist" endings are rewarding, SINISTER is the only film that offers a well-written script, some chills, and great performances all in one. If you plan on seeing something scary this Halloween, SINISTER is no doubt the film to go with.
Thanks for reading!
-Written by Corey Wood